'Stories about ... assessment': understanding and enhancing students' experiences of assessment in art and design higher education using on-line storytelling and visual representations.
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This thesis aims to investigate students’ qualitative experiences of assessment in art and design higher education using storytelling and visual representations. It aims to investigate whether collaborative storytelling can encourage students to reflect on, and learn from, each others’ experiences of assessment. In order to examine these aims, an on-line tool, ‘StoriesAbout… Assessment’ was designed and developed, based on an adapted model of storytelling as a reflective tool in higher education. Visual representations of students’ experiences were also used to identify the affective aspects of the assessment experience. In using these novel methods, the research aimed to highlight the whole student learning experience and how assessment affects that experience. Traditional methods of surveying and evaluation do not usually focus on this, nor do they provide a reflective, learning process for students. The analysis of stories led to a greater understanding of students’ experiences of assessment in art and design by identifying a number of key issues: the impact of negative experiences, the need for greater clarity of assessment criteria due to the subjective nature of the discipline, the tension students perceive between their role as creative practitioners in an educational setting and their role in the wider art world, the value of peer support and appropriate feedback. The storytelling model enabled students to view stories from different perspectives and to consider changes to their practice, and the model has demonstrated its efficacy in supporting reflective thinking and transformative learning. The emotional aspect to students’ experiences was particularly evident in their visual representations which often used strong imagery to depict how the stress of assessment affected them. The drawings also showed stereotypes of assessment, such as images of exams, indicating that these previous experiences had become synonymous with assessment, despite there being few formal exams in art and design. In summary, this thesis contributes two new methods for understanding and enhancing the student learning experience, which have been proven in the context of art and design higher education.